January 6th 1839, this date is still remembered in Ireland as “The Night of the Big Wind”.
The Big Wind was a major windstorm that developed in the Atlantic Ocean. The day before snow had fallen and the weather was unusually warm for the time of year. On the 6th a strong wind was blowing with heavy rain accompanying it and at about 11pm that night, Ireland was in the middle of the worst storm the country had seen for 300 years. Many houses were destroyed, rivers burst their banks and 42 ships were wrecked.
The total number of deaths in Ireland was reported at the time as upwards of 300 although it is now believed to have been significantly less, at around 90 deaths.
Drogheda suffered great damage with many of the poorer wood cabins being completely blown apart. In the wealthier homes, chimneys came down and ceilings collapsed.
The 6th of January is also the Feast of the Epiphany or Little Women’s Christmas and the devout claimed that the storm must have been a punishment from God.
Others attributed the storm to the work of fairies reasoning that the night before was the Feast of St. Ceara and the traditional night for the fairies to hold a large feast day of their own. Another story goes that the storm was caused by the fairies leaving the country when they sensed some evil force coming to Ireland.